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To Email, Or Not To Email?

Researchers at Victoria University have found that the way employees feel about using email is likely to reflect the way they feel about their job.

Janet Holmes, Director of the study that looks at the use of email in the workplace said research by one of her team, Derek Wallace, has shown that how a person feels about their job is often transferred to their feelings about the technology they use to do that work.

In a survey conducted in a large Wellington organisation, half of all respondents working in a professional or executive capacity said that email creates a friendlier working environment.

"The findings draw attention to the sharply conflicting roles that email can play in organisations and that email is interpreted in different ways by different people," said Professor Holmes.

Two-thirds of administrative staff said that email did not create a friendly working environment

"It is perhaps not surprising that administrative support staff appear to be less enamoured of e-mail than their professional counterparts," said Professor Holmes.

"Statistically, administrative support staff are most often on the receiving end of e-mail messages that instruct or request them to do things.

"Often these hastily produced messages may lack the relationship-maintaining elements of face-to-face communication. Most people expect some sort of salutation and sign-off in an email message, and feel offended by an apparent bluntness of tone that may only be the product of haste.

"In one organisation a new employee was disconcerted to find that using the internal telephone system was unlikely to produce a response. If you can't put what you want in an email, the message seemed to be then don't bother me," said Professor Holmes.

The study is part of Language in the Workplace Project at Victoria University of Wellington and is an investment of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

"What these potential problems show is that more conscious thought needs to be given by staff and managers to the role email plays in an organisation," said Professor Holmes.

For further information: Derek Wallace, Victoria University of Wellington, Tel 04 463 5615 Derek.Wallace@vuw.ac.nz

Janet Holmes, Victoria University of Wellington Tel 04 463 5614, janet.holmes@vuw.ac.nz

Madeleine Setchell, Foundation for Research, Science and Technology Tel 04 9177 806, Mobile 025 40 60 40, madelein@frst.govt.nz , www.frst.govt.nz

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